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March 6, 2013 10:13 am

Ideologists: In Defense of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Naftali Bennett. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In political parties and youth movements an ideology is taught to be sacred, as a way of life – something which is important, is a product of history, reasoning and more. It completely makes sense to the members as they become “indoctrinated.” Similarly, in synagogues and yeshivas, one is taught the beauty of the Torah, of Jewish history, laws and reasoning.

In religion and politics however, ideology and rules so often give way to compromise, political convenience and bending on what is supposedly sacred. Religion and ideology become a changeable rulebook which can be twisted or shaped based upon convenience or what will bring one power.

While not unique to Israel, politicians often don’t keep their promises anywhere in the world, but Israel especially is a place where ideology is often bent. The so-called “right-wing” Likud Party has in the last few years seen leaders like Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert make political compromises which would have caused party forefather Ze’ev Jabotinsky to turn in his grave. To “pressure” Naftali Bennett of the Bayit Yehudi party to join the government, the Likud has instituted a freeze on building in the settlements and appointed the Hatnuah Party Chairperson Tzipi Livni to lead negotiations with the Palestinians. Is this a party which can claim loyalty to ideology? if they can turn on the policy of expanding settlements simply because Bennett won’t join their government?

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The so-called “religious” parties like Shas and Agudath Israel have also shown throughout the years that they care about political power more than ideology. They clearly pray at the altar of power, political influence and money.

Rising political star Yair Lapid has said: “No matter what ideology won the last election – Left, Right, socialist, capitalist, two-state solution or whole Land of Israel – the ultra-Orthodox are always willing to be in the coalition. Did someone change the law and didn’t tell us? Can a government be formed with the Likud, without Labor, without Kadima, without Meretz, without Arab parties, without any party at all, but the haredim always have to be in the government, otherwise you’re boycotting and rejecting them?”

Shas and Agudath Israel’s ideology is simple – do whatever they can to be in power.

Even after President Shimon Peres granted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a 14- day extension to form a coalition, the ideological pairing of Lapid & Bennett is giving Netanyahu and Likud a hard time. Likud is twisting in the wind as Naftali Bennett of Bayit Yehudi and Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid have banded together as ideologues who can trust one another. Ideology gives the Likud fits – and that says a lot.

David Shimron, the Likud’s main negotiator was quoted on Army Radio as saying: “… Is this a childhood thing? Is this a football fan alliance? Our word is our bond? Being a man’s man? What is this nonsense?”

And Bennett rightfully responded: “…It is our turn to keep our word. A promise is sacred. I will keep it.” Bennett’s chief strategic adviser Moshe Klughaft said: “The fact that saying that ‘our word is our bond’ in politics is so strange is an indication where our politics have gone. Ultimately, Bennett is saying, ‘I gave my word, and I intend to honor it.’ I think that there is nothing more admirable than that, even in politics.”

There is no shame in keeping one’s word. It’s honorable, decent and undoubtedly what anyone wants from their elected officials. The fact that the firm ideological stand of those parties and the keeping of their word, is challenging Likud says a lot about the party which has ruled Israel for so many years.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.

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  • Richard Bons

    Naftali Bennett worked for the Prime Minister some years ago. Lets hope he will be PM some years from now.

  • Paul Ringo

    The idea of a man standing for his word even in the face of public challenge is refreshing. It doesn’t matter which side of the fence he’s on if you know where his heart is and his integrity backs it up. It’s a character issue that’s well worth watching.